Are the Olympic roster rules changing at the 11th hour?
No, says the NHL, but reports out of Russia during the past week are sending a different message.
Again on Monday, eyebrows were raised with this tweet, with the head of Russian hockey, the legendary Vladislav Tretiak, apparently suggesting the IIHF will allow for partial rosters to be announced by Jan. 1 and the rest to be added closer to the Sochi Games. Some reports out of Europe have suggested Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic will do the same.
I reached out to my colleague Slava Malamud, a Russian sports writer based in Washington, D.C., who said top Russian and KHL hockey officials have been quoted over the past little while in Russia saying they were hoping for a compromise with the IIHF to relax the roster deadline and allow for more flexibility.
However, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com Monday in no uncertain terms that there has been "no change" as far as having to name the full, 25-man roster by Jan. 1, and that the IIHF has told the NHL that Russia will comply.
Clearly, what we have is the IIHF and its president, Rene Fasel, caught in a tight squeeze between the NHL and Russia/KHL -- not a comfortable position to be in. Should be interesting to monitor.
People around the league are still buzzing about Chicago's acquisition of Kris Versteeg, most notably the ability to get him at half the price of his salary and cap hit.
Once source told ESPN.com Monday that Chicago was the only team that showed any real interest in Versteeg, whom the Panthers had been trying to move for a while.
Given that Versteeg hadn't been playing all that well, plus the fact he has more than 2 1/2 years left on a contract that carries a $4.4 million cap hit and moves up to a $4.7 million salary for the last two seasons, you can see why there wasn't much of a market.
How it all played out, I hear, is that a little more than a week ago, Blackhawks management was bouncing around names that could be a good fit to play right wing on the third line. Versteeg's name came up, and he was clearly the most expensive option on the list in terms of his salary.
General manager Stan Bowman figured, why not approach the Panthers about him with the pitch that they would be interested only if Florida would eat some money. As it turns out, the Panthers were willing to do just that if it meant getting the right package in return and getting rid of a player who appears to have worn out his welcome in South Florida.
When Panthers GM Dale Tallon spoke to the media in the wake of Kevin Dineen's firing as coach earlier this month, he talked about trying to move veteran players who didn't look like they still wanted to be there -- which had Versteeg written all over it.
Given the lack of interest in Versteeg, Tallon -- with ownership backing -- agreed to eat half of the cap hit and salary for the entirety of the deal.
The CBA allows for trades where teams only eat a certain percentage for one season, but the Panthers in this case will eat half of the cap hit and salary for the entire deal.
The play here for Florida is about sending a message and trying to build the right environment around the kids in the organization. Credit goes to new owner Vinnie Viola for being willing to eat half the deal in order to send the right message.
But for the Blackhawks, it's an unbelievable bargain.
As a rival team executive noted Monday, they get a motivated Versteeg, who believes he's been freed from a bad situation. No question he is overpaid at $4.4 million a year, but "at a $2.2 million cap hit, Versteeg is well worth it," the executive said. "You’re not getting a player like him on the open market for less than $3 million a year."
With goalie Corey Crawford's extension kicking in next season, the Blackhawks will be tight under the salary cap. So to get Versteeg at $2.2 million a year through the 2015-16 season is simply a real shrewd move by Bowman.